Significance In A Groovin Phenomenon Cultural Studies Essay

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To the 60's generation, the song "Let's Get Together", made famous by Jefferson Airplane, clearly paralleled the Hippie Movement's moral goal of transformation in society. A key phrase of the song was: "Hey, people, now smile on your brother, let me see you get together, love one another right now!"1 Although the hippies showed great obligation to their movement, a question remains: Did the hippies positively impact the larger society, or would society have been better off without the hippies? With reputations of being free-loving, peace seeking, drug-taking reformists, the Hippie Generation clearly had effects on those outside the culture, whom hippies referred to as straight society. However, peace, drugs, and sex in the hippie lifestyle were often taken out of context, leading most to the wrong conclusion about the intentions of the counterculture. Because the hippies were open to these topics, society became alarmed by this defiant uproar which challenged their standards. Simply trying to create an alternative to their elders, the hippies opened doors to a new lifestyle that could not be understood by those on the outside looking in. Even though their intentions were often misconstrued, the hippies' urge to reform societal morals positively impacted the American society.

The term "hippie" came from a long line of intertwined words and meanings. First appearing in the late 30's, "hep" was the term used to distinguish those "in the know". Arriving with the 50's, the name "hip" replaced "hep". Basically if someone was hep in the 50's, he was square. Even though the term hippie was very significant to defining the counterculture, many of those that led the movement did not acknowledge the term which was first given to them by the mass media.2

Although hippies came bursting onto the scene by the late 60's, their counterculture was an impending development seen throughout previous historical groups. Prosperous in the 1950's, the Beat Generation was similar to the hippies in their beliefs, but did not act on them as the hippies did. The hippies focused on expanding and building communities isolated from the straight society for which they could live.3 In addition to building alternative societies, the hippies were able to develop characteristics that would define their unique place in history.

The usual age of hippies was between 16 and 24 years old; the ages averaged between 19 and 20 years. Regardless of age, all true hippies were recognizable in appearance. Setting individuality as the forefront of their fashion, hippies chose attire that was defined by freedom, peacefulness, and the carefree vibe. Often one could spot them wearing numerous accessories such as flowers, headbands, and various beaded necklaces. Some hippies even went as far as decorating their entire bodies with paint.4

Previous to total immersion in the hippie lifestyle, teens and young adults found difficultly living cooped up in a society that ignored the interests of their developing culture. In this sense it is not surprising that prior to becoming unified in communal living, hippies were very interested in helping others. Seeking jobs such as psychologists, veterinarians, or even entertainers, hippies started early in an attempt to put the well-being of others at the forefront.5 Despite the fact that more than 70% of hippies came from the middle and upper class society, nearly all dropped out freely from their societal positions. Not only was this the core for future leaders, but society was now destined to be genuinely affected by the drop out of an important generation.6

Granting that the hippies came from the upper class society, it was common that they came from a family life in which they were unhappy to be living in. Broken marriages and lack of parental support led many teens to life in hippie communes. Finding strength in their newly formed communes, hippies established new lives which proved to be a secure alternative to home life.7 The new lifestyle was to "drop out" and "do his own thing". Although dropping out often consisted of making jewelry or spending time becoming in tune with ones conscience, it was better than paying money to "live the good life". Most hippies were in fact capable of affording life in straight society, but they voluntarily chose to live lives of poverty.8 Once the hippies rid their lives of societal burdens, they began the search for an area to become free spirits.

Interest in hippie history is not only an outcome of their era, but also the documented locations where the culture exploded. Hence "Hippies" are validly labeled as a "collectivity of identical individuals living in the Haight-Ashbury District between 1966 and 1968."9 Bringing interest to this San Francisco area, media and word of mouth brought people flocking into the city.10 America's attention turned to the West Coast when articles in newspapers read: "Flower Children Invade San Francisco."11 Taking over the Haight-Ashbury by 1966, the hippies called their new home "The Haight". Their claim on the area had a major influence on the views of the surrounding society as it became designated to this "New Community's" movement.12

Contrasting views and repetitive stereotypes of Hippies have left people of recent generations in opposition to the positive aspects the counterculture offered. While it was difficult for anyone in the straight society to regard the hippies' proposals of change, it is not too late for individuals of the present society to open their eyes to the unrevealed benefits that the hippies gave to America.

By casting off the ideas of their wealthy middle class parents, teenagers who took up the hippie lifestyle were labeled by society as kids who were throwing their lives away.13 The actual reason these hippies chose to drop out, is because they believed that society held undefined values. Examples of these were the nation's laws on abortion and pot. In reality there were 1 million illegal abortions a year and 1 million illegal pot smokers. Hippies became fed up with society's knack of contradicting itself as illustrated in the aforementioned case.14 Hippies preached that, by taking a step back from the realm of society, one may look at civilization without animosity. Not only would problems of society become clearer, but many people would realize the need for transformation.15 To do so, Hippies first would have to avoid wealth, injustice, and prejudgment of moral values in order to eliminate obstacles that would keep them from being a harmonious counterculture.16 Through hippie alternate communes, places were offered where affliction and racism could not take shape. These communes also focused on, "fighting against the white man's perverted society of pollution, war, and greed."17

In order to expand on reformation ideals, the hippies presented a new idea which challenged society to build immunity against prejudice, and uniformity among society's people.18 To further fulfill their ambitions, the hippies had to pick priorities that would lead to succeed in their efforts.

The conception that hippies were careless towards any type of work ethic is actually quite contradictory to the truth.19 A resentful bystander stated that hippies didn't care about hard work; they were partiers who put work on the backburner to their carefree lives.20 Placing work at a top value, the counterculture devoted much time to low-wage paying labor totally discrediting the previous accusation.21 Granting that hippies did carry a carefree lifestyle, it was put in recess when topics such as the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement were brought to reality.22 In fact, both work and efficiency were put into the anti-war movement. Putting together rallies became a tedious duty for the hippies, and often required a staff for these demonstrations. Around 20% of hippies interviewed spent time producing advertisements for the rallies and protests.23 Impressively, the largest demonstration held in Washington D.C., which protested the war, was attended by 250,000 people. It should be noted that not only was it attended by the hippies, but also citizens of all social classes, including pacifists and even scholars.24 "People literally worked to end the war."25

Even though their actions for change were peaceful, straight society still viewed the hippies as menaces. Many thought that hippie opposition was just hippies displaying their indifference to the morals of society by being filthy and most of all lazy.26 Contributing to this bias, police plainly viewed anti-war demonstrators as complaining rebels trying to create chaos.27 In fact, it was not uncommon for police to make ridiculous arrests on hippies living in the Haight District. This includes arrests made on hippies who had been walking in the gutter.28 Although outsiders did not realize it, the beliefs and actions of the hippies did not in any way try to contradict the rest of society.29 Those pushing for civil rights used civil disobedience as a way of challenging the law itself.30 To make their morals clear, the hippies worked to let America understand the goals through sit-ins, rallies, and peaceful protests. Gaining recognition for their public displays of objection, demonstrations even began to draw attention from those outside Hippie culture.31 While Straight society was becoming observant to these exhibitions, they were even more quickly ripening an interest in drug habits of the counterculture.

With the introduction of new drugs to society, an evolution of theories transpired about drug relevance to that of the hippies. One popular notion was that notorious usage of illegal drugs was a basis for the hippie movement.32 Supplanting this argument is the fact that the basis of the movement is undeniably political activism.33 Even more importantly, the number one goal of the Hippies' peace movement was to end war. The culture believed that respect for human life should be enforced and kept away from bloody battle grounds.34 Centering around the hippies' civil rights views, their strive for equality held seniority. From their perspective, the hippies believed that any person, race, or sex was valuable to the same extent.35 Still some may believe that, yes war and equality were important to the hippies, but drugs were in the middle of it all. Hypocritical to this idea of drug influence on the hippies, the press was actually the most devoted to turning America's attention towards drugs. Airtime and news stories were filled with countless references to drugs. Oftentimes one could open a newspaper to an article that read: "Secrets of The Divine Mushroom…."36 Misperception by the mass media also made it easy for drug addicts and freaks to become classified as hippies. By acquiring hippie clothes and faking hippie philosophies, these druggies used hippie lifestyle to cover up their life wrecking addictions.37 Though these posers were prime target for stereotype, there were some hippies who used LSD.

Not only did those taking LSD claim that it was a healthy guide for examining the conscience, but that it also opened doors to unthinkable beauties that life possessed.38 A tripper often realized that "collapse of the ego" when taking LSD allowed them to analyze fears, phobias, and rationale which may have kept them from a true relationship with others.39 Challenging this argument of LSD as a necessity to the Hippie Movement was lead guitarist of the Beatles. George Harrison voiced his opinion saying:

A hippie is supposed to be someone who becomes aware- you're hip if you know what's going on. But if you're really hip, you don't get involved with LSD and things like that. You see the potential that it has and the good that can come from it, but you also see that you don't really need it.40

As the media had a forceful effect on the drug stereotype towards the hippies, it also made a great contribution to how the sex revolution was interpreted by society. Media's claim that hippies were all chaotically sexually active, led straights to feel the same about the culture.41 The fact of the matter is that rather than focusing on free sexual satisfaction, which many believed; hippie relations actually lasted longer than most other social classes'. Equal rights between partners became more of a focus than true sexual relations.42 The idea of free love, as well, gave the question of women's role is society a chance to form. The women's movement was born from the idea that women should no longer be in charge of only the household.43 The conversion of society's attitude in the favor of the female sex's rights was the true sexual revolution.44

Even though the intentions of the Hippies were positive and done in an act of reform, outer society misinterpreted their actions. Because their behavior was different from the public, the hippies were not taken seriously.45 Despite the fact that their protests were not taken the most seriously, the hippies saw every demonstration as a chance. Taking part in activities that they knew would instantly attract attention, made it impossible for the protest's points to go unrecognized by the straight society.46 Rather than violent rebellion, most hippies embraced the chance to make America aware of their fight against Vietnam. Sit-ins, flag burnings, and silent exhibitions were commonly exhibited.47 Protests by the hippies were clearly beneficial in sending their message to society. They truly created a confrontation with society's basis for clearing up conflicts. This would include the tactics taken by America to reach a relevant settlement with enemies.48 By the late 60's, 65% of Americans' views were in agreement with the hippies.49 With this majority a number of students jumped on the anti-war bandwagon to fight against the war in Vietnam. Seeing war as a threat to their future careers in education, students aided the hippies in protesting the military draft as well.50

Of all debated stereotypes related to the hippie movement there is one that truly affects what the entire Hippie Generation stood for and what people believe about it today. A supporter of the straight society to this day may believe that the hippie counterculture was not truly a culture, because it held no relevance in history except attempting to clone previous cultures. The movement was, therefore, just a theory to those who followed it.51 Even if someone was to rule out all the benefits and statistics in an attempt to deny the hippies a place in history, the one thing that is certain, is that the hippies challenged society in order to improve it. They rebelled without violence, while fighting for the equality of all people. That matters. "The Hippie Movement becomes historically relevant just because it poses for us the question of freedom as youth sees it. Not freedom someday, but now. Do it, they tell us. Now."52

Despite all misleading stereotypes that identified the hippies as burdensome to society, their movement truly had lasting benefits on pending developments and equality in society. Some of these include: The Civil Rights Act, drastic progression in the Gay Rights Movement and Women's Rights Movement, The Freedom of Information Act, Family Planning, and more integration. Also with the help of the Hippies, there was raised awareness to the environment.53 Earth day became a popular holiday due to the counterculture. Earth Day informed society of the dangers of pesticide misuse, oil spills, nuclear power, and car pollution which was what hippies had been trying to inform society about for years.54 Finally, through all their benefits and accomplishments, the hippies widened horizons towards acknowledgment of human pleasure. From this they turned society's attention to the importance of the human bodies and most importantly our world.55

Granting it is uncertain whether the Hippie's movement towards change in society was 'won' or 'lost', many have seen the lasting benefits of their actions. A women interviewed about the topic stated, "The 60's lit a fuse that's just now detonating."56 As a matter of fact, if the hippie movement had not existed during the 1960's, it is reasonable to say that a movement of the same sort would develop in today's day and age. Simply said, it is impossible that a group similar to the Hippies would go unformed for all eternity.

America might invent a hippie movement if it did not exist because apparently the yearning for creativity, humanism, and love, no matter how deeply buried in the plastic heart of the most robot like psychopathic American, is a homo sapiens trait that cannot be extinguished.57

Since the demise of the hippies, negative stereotype has forced the relevance of the culture's importance to go unrecognized by succeeding generations. By challenging the unwritten principles of society, the hippie generation was able to make clear the nation's need for peace, freedom, and equality. Those unable to see benefits that resulted from this movement are plainly unwilling to open their eyes to new possibilities in a stubborn society. Even though it is clear that our world has yet to be in perfect conformity, the hippies sparked the ideas of resistance without violence, equality lacking bias, and most importantly a society rejecting corruption.